Silver is originally from the Netherlands, but she’s been living in Ireland for many years. She originally visited this country on holiday, and she felt so much at home here that she never wanted to leave. She has a day job in the civil service, but nearly all of her spare time is spent looking after rescued animals and promoting the message about good ferret and parrot care.
She’s always been enthusiastic about animals. As a child, she used to spend weekends and holidays at pet farms and pet shops, helping in any way that she could. On leaving school, she found a job at the famous Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, working with a wide range of creatures, from flamingoes to elephants. It was here that she developed affection for weasel-like creatures and soon after, she began to rescue unwanted ferrets. Although they’re now often kept as pets, ferrets have traditionally been used primarily for hunting. Silver discovered that many hunting ferrets were being abandoned if they were not doing their job effectively. She offered to take these ferrets in, and she soon had over fifty of them in her house.
She took a break from ferret rescue when she moved to Ireland, focusing on her career instead, but in 2001, she found herself being drawn back into animal rescue work. She now shares her home with over twenty ferrets, and in recent years, she’s branched out into rescuing large birds such as parrots and cockatoos. She’s fascinated by their behaviour and intelligence, and she’s gathered a flock of twenty “rescued” birds around her.
Silver feels that ferrets and large birds are misunderstood, often ending up in inappropriate homes. She has a personal mission to spread good information about keeping these creatures, and she spends much of her spare time in her efforts to achieve this aim. Along with a team of volunteers, she travels to shows and fairs around the country, setting up her stand and talking about her favourite subject. She’s been to Annascaul Show in Dingle and Tullamore Show, as well as many other smaller local events. She also runs Ferret Workshops where she spends a whole day with up to fifteen new ferret keepers, giving hands-on practical handling tips and healthcare advice. Pet ferrets need to be vaccinated, microchipped and neutered, and they can be trained to be as tame as dogs and cats. It’s rare for owners to be bitten by their pets, but despite this, many people are frightened of them.
In Ireland until recently, ferrets were only kept as hunters. They’re trained for this, learning to go into burrows in search of rabbits and rats. Their handlers set up nets at the exits to the burrow, catching their prey as they rush out to escape the ferret. Nowadays ferrets wear radio-emitting collars, so that if they go missing, their handlers can pinpoint their location underground so that they can be retrieved.
Silver strongly recommends ferrets as pets. They’re not for everyone, but for people who naturally feel comfortable with them, they’re great fun. Silver feels that the next stage will be the launch of a national Pet Ferret Club. Such clubs are common in other European countries, with members meeting to have Ferret Shows, where their pets race each other, as well as being judged for “best in show” in a similar way to dogs and cats.
Ferrets and parrots: an odd combination perhaps, but they make up the centre of Silver’s universe.
- Ferrets make excellent pets for the right people
- They need to be looked after properly, just like any other pet